Nearly a year after she watched her average monthly natural gas bill spike from $25 to $104, Suzie Vaughan isn't taking any chances.
The Lawrence resident already has bought the sandpaper, primer, paint and brushes needed to seal window sills at her 10-year-old home.
Now all she needs is time to put in the work.
"The biggest concern I have is heat loss," she said Friday, outside Westlake Ace Hardware, 601 Kasold Drive. "I need energy savings. If I can't get the gas company to lower my bills, I'll just use less of their gas."
Such sentiments are gaining steam this fall, as residents socked with staggering heating bills a year ago search for ways to cool costs. In January, the mixture of extreme cold weather and record wholesale gas prices pushed the average monthly gas bill in Lawrence to $237.22.
Having temperatures expected to drop to 34 degrees overnight Friday rekindled worries among customers and pushed retailers into action.
At Westlake Ace, employees stocked shelves with space heaters, weather-stripping and furnace filters to prepare for an anticipated weekend buying spree.
"When it really gets cold and really gets freezing people start making preparations," said A.R. Wells, store manager. "Most people don't think about it until it starts getting cold."
But the financial bite from heating bills isn't expected to be as harsh this winter. This week, the Energy Information Administration issued a relatively optimistic winter fuels report:
l A typical household using natural gas is expected to spend about a third less this winter for heating, an average savings of $320 compared with last winter.
l Wholesale gas prices are expected to average $2.10 per thousand cubic feet this winter, down from the average rate of $6.20 that peaked at $10 last winter.
l Industrial demand for natural gas declined by 18 percent during the first half of this year from a year earlier. Industrial use is expected to decline even more as the economy slides, making more gas available for residential use.
UtiliCorp United whose Kansas Public Service division provides natural gas to 30,000 customers in Lawrence last month forecast lower heating prices this winter, thanks to increased gas supplies, more production, a mild summer and the slowing economy.
Even so, Vaughan isn't taking any chances.
"I'm not too worried, but I just want to make sure my windows are sealed tight," she said.